The Joe Martin Stage Race will return in 2022 with Walmart as a new sponsor as it celebrates its 45th year.
The event, a four-stage race for men and women, will be held between 19-22 May 2022 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA. It has become the oldest continually held stage race in the US, and is one of only two road stage races on the UCI calendar.
It will be the 20th anniversary of it expanding to four days and it is the eighth time it will be on the UCI's Americas Tour.
The 2021 men's and women's editions were won by Tyler Williams and Skylar Schneider respectively, who both ride for L39ION of Los Angeles.
"Walmart’s partnership with Joe Martin Stage Race is a game changer for our event," race organisers All Sport Productions' CEO Bruce Dunn said.
"With Walmart’s partnership we will be able to not only grow the race in terms of prominence, but to also upgrade key areas of the overall participant and spectator experience."
Race organisers said that higher prize money would be on offer for both professional men and women, with equal payouts, but the amount has not been made public yet.
Walmart sponsored the recent cyclocross World Championships which were also held in Fayetteville.
"We are excited to be the title partner of this premier cycling event in North America that will be held in Northwest Arkansas, where our company was founded nearly 60 years ago," Kim Tunick, senior director of brand experiences and partnerships at Walmart said.
"Our partnership demonstrates Walmart’s commitment to the community and promoting healthy and active lifestyles for our customers and associates.”
At a press conference, Dunn said: "The ultimate goal is to not only make the Joe Martin Stage Race the largest competitive pro cycling race in North America, but it’s my dream and hope to elevate road cycling in the United States to the same level as many of the other professional races in sports in our country."
Last year Tayler Wiles, who rides for Trek-Segafredo, said "something needs to be done" about the lack of road racing in the US.
In recent years the Tour of California and the Philadelphia Cycling Classic have fallen off the calendar. In 2022 there will be no Tour of Utah either, with the Joe Martin Stage Race and the Tour of the Gila the only UCI races on the schedule, and both are 2.2, far from WorldTour level.
Brendon Quirk, the CEO of USA Cycling, noted the lack of popularity around road cycling. "Road cycling is the one discipline of cycling that isn’t growing quite at the clip as mountain bike racing, as gravel racing, as BMX or cyclocross. The reason why is it is really difficult to put on road races, it’s hard to put on stage races. It’s complicated."
In a pre-recorded message, Quirk said: "The generosity of Walmart is going to make it so that this race can still happen in northwest Arkansas, continue to be a real crown jewel of the racing scene, not just [for] Arkansas but really for all of the United States.”
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Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over my professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.
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